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Churches Don’t Have to Be Accessible. That’s Bad News for Voters.

ID: An altered image of a church steeple in red and blue. An accessibility symbol to the right of the church. Mother Jones; Unsplash; Wikimedia.

Polling locations are supposed to be accessible to all voters, including disabled and aging ones. But nearly one in five polling locations in the United States is a church, and religious entities are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, key civil rights legislation that helped establish that protection. A 2022 survey by Detroit Disability Power and the Carter Center found that only around 10 percent of church polling places in Detroit, where Underwood voted, and its suburbs, were considered fully accessible. The prevalence of inaccessible polling places is particularly alarming for disabled and aging people in states that have moved to quash mail-in voting—including Oklahoma and Arkansas, where churches make up over 50 percent of voting locations.


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